Messi, Ronaldo, Pele, Zidane: European vs South American all-time XI - who wins?

Let’s say the greatest ever team of European-born footballers were to play the greatest ever team of South American-born stars – who would win?

The two continents have dominated the beautiful game for generations with practically all of football’s biggest legends hailing from one of the two regions.

South America have produced three of the four players that many would venture as candidates for the ‘greatest of all time debate’ in Pele, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Whilst Europe has contributed just the one in the form of famous Cristiano Ronaldo. But, then again, is there an argument to suggest that Europe has produced a larger volume of legends over the years?

Maybe so. Which means that deciphering who would win in this hypothetical dreamland a pretty tricky task.

First things first, let’s decide the teams.

The European all-time XI

GK – Lev Yashin

CB – Sergio Ramos
CB – Franz Beckenbauer
CB – Paolo Maldini

RM – Johan Cruyff
CM – Xavi Hernandez
CM – Zinedine Zidane

LM – Andres Iniesta

RF – Ferenc Puskas
ST – Gerd Muller
LF – Cristiano Ronaldo

Now, that is one hell of a team. And although we’re sure that you disagree with a couple of inclusions or would maybe have opted for an alternative player in certain positions, we feel like that’s a good representation for Europe.

Don’t get us wrong, as ever in these hypothetical all-time XI’s squad balance goes out the window.

But what we’ve lost in squad balance we’ve made up for in quite unbelievable levels of footballing talent.

In Yashin, we have the most renowned goalkeeper in history. The Russian saved over 150 penalties and kept over 250 clean sheets in his career.

Not that he would likely be needed all that much with the defence packed to the brim with arguably the best gladiators football has ever known in Ramos, Beckenbauer and Maldini.

Maldini was untouchable
Maldini was untouchable

When it comes to the midfield, whilst Cruyff and Iniesta are both out of position, you’d be hard pressed to find any other players in history that were such students of the game, and we doubt they would have any trouble adapting to their roles.

Meanwhile the attack, well, Ronaldo and Muller fighting for the tag of top goalscorer would certainly be an interesting one.

Whereas Puskas would be relied upon to pull off the spectacular every now and again.

Ronaldo Portugal

The South American all-time XI

GK – Jose Luis Chilavert

CB – Carlos Alberto
CB – Daniel Passarella
CB – Nilson Santos

RM – Lionel Messi
CM – Zico
CM – Diego Maradona

LM – Ronaldinho

RF – Alfredo Di Stefano
ST – Pele
LF – Ronaldo

The state of that attack. And when we say ‘attack’ we mean everyone from the midfield up because every single team member from that point is practically thought of as a God by South Americans.

Pele, Maradona and Messi will always be right up there in the GOAT debate.

Ronaldo and Ronaldinho defined Brazil in the early 2000’s, as well as European club football for that matter.

Ronaldo and Ronaldinho

Meanwhile Di Stefano and Zico were both lauded as one of the finest players of their generations.

It really is mind-boggling. The defence brings a slight drop off, admittedly, but Alberto is thought to be one of the great right-backs of the sport.

And while Santos and Passarella will be lesser known by many younger fans, the two played a key role in their individual nation’s World Cup victories.

Santos lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1958 and 1962 along with Pele.

Passarella would captain Argentina to victory 16 years later at the 1978 World Cup.

But anyway, we have our teams. What about the result?

Pele Santos
Pele – Santos Mandatory Credit:Action Images

European vs South American all-time XI – THE RESULT

Both teams are unsurprisingly and unapologetically brilliant. So, picking a winner proves a particularly tough task.

South America has the edge as an attacking force, with the legends making their team quite frankly unstoppable.

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But whilst Europe boast an awe-inspiring attack also, one would imagine that many fans out there would point to a big step up when it comes to the overall quality of its defence in comparison to that of South America.

And for that reason, even though it seems crazy to suggest that a team filled with Messi, Pele and Maradona could actually lose a game, we’re going to opt for Europe as the winners in this trivial encounter.

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